Mahbub Talukder says he thinks the commission is not prepared for using EVMs in the parliamentary polls
Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukder on Thursday walked out of an Election Commission meeting, opposing its decision to amend the Representation of the People Order (RPO) in order to use electronic voting machines (EVM) for the 11th national election.
Thirty minutes after the six-hour-long meeting started around 11am at the commission office in Dhaka’s Agargaon, he left the meeting, questioning the commission’s move to procure EVMs meant to be used in the upcoming polls.
He also sent a note of dissent to the commission later in this regard.
Talking to reporters at his office in the evening, Mahbub said: “I am not in favour of amending the RPO and using EVMs in the parliamentary polls because we are not prepared for that. Most of the political parties are against that idea too.
“The training (our officials have) received so far is inadequate. I feel that we do not have enough time to fully prepare for using EVMs in the national election.”
“The EVM was also added into our work plan suddenly. If we take this path, EVMs will never be successful. Besides, voters are not interested in exercising their franchise using EVMs,” he added.
Mahbub said: “It’s impossible that they (the chief election commissioner and other election commissioners) will amend the RPO and I will sit there like a statue. That’s why I left. I was in the meeting but I had no scope to speak there.”
The note of dissent he had given earlier in the day had also read: “I believe EVMs can be used gradually in the local elections but I do not support the initiative to amend the RPO to use the EVMs in the 11th general election. I am issuing this note of dissent to differ with the decision of the commission.”
However, the commissioner told reporters he never wanted the commission’s image to be tarnished even though he opposed its decision.
“I have a different opinion. I’m not against anyone. I will not protest the CEC’s remarks, but I also do not believe in blindly supporting the opinions of others. There is always difference in opinion in democracy,” he said.
Expressing regret, Mahbub said: “We are not keeping our promises... We had said that EVMs will not be used (in the national polls) if all parties do not agree. Our road map (to the polls) also does not include EVMs.”
If the RPO is amended and passed in parliament, the commission will have to sit again to take the final decision on EVM use, he added.
The ruling Awami League is in favour of using EVMs in the national polls, through amendment of the RPO, but BNP and left-leaning political parties have always opposed the idea, expressing concern that the machines could be used to rig the election.
Last year, the commission engaged in dialogue with 39 political parties, 23 of which gave their opinion on the use of EVMs in the national polls. Twelve parties, including the BNP, had directly opposed the idea.
Since their introduction in 2010, the EVMs have so far been used in different local government elections only.
With the national election nearly four months away, the Election Commission has drawn up plans to use 150,000 EVMs at polling centres in one-third of the country’s 300 constituencies, a move that was immediately criticized by different quarters, including political parties.
The commission has already started a Tk38 billion project to procure 150,000 EVMs, with the Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory (BMTF) tasked to supply the machines.
However, Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda on Thursday said: “It’s not certain that we will use EVMs in the national polls. But, we want to stay prepared for using them if there is a favourable atmosphere before the polls.”